Financial Empowerment Centers

Financial Empowerment is about taking what
you have and getting yourself to where you want to be. By being able to organize my money, what little
bit of it I have, through the Financial Empowerment Center, they helped me get on a budget. They
helped me look at issues that I hadn’t even though about, like credit ratings and bank
accounts and all that. It’s just phenomenal. I’m really thankful. I was just having some trouble with a mortgage.
Like most people, old mortgage, very high interest rate. I think it was 12% or something
like that. And I got talking to Jim, and he sent me to a bank. And now my mortgage is
2.5%. The Financial Empowerment Center allows individuals
to come in to an office, have a private one-on-one counseling session with a financial empowerment
coach. The goal of the Financial Empowerment Center is to just help people overall improve
their financial household. How do you budget? How do you pay your bills?
How do you get ahead? I’m a financial counselor for the Lansing
Financial Empowerment Center who will help you be financially stable and free. So talk
about credit, debt, anything. We ask people to call to make an appointment.
Our initial appointments usually last between an hour and an hour and a half. We sit, we
chat, we get to know each other a little bit. We go through income and expenses. We assign
a spending journal to people. And then we start to focus in on what matters. If you
were brave enough to call and motivated enough to call, there must be something on your mind
and what is it? And how are we going to work on that together? I ended up developing a spending log. An every
day spending log, to the point where I would tell my son. It’s like he wants to go get
McDonald’s or whatever. I’d be like, Kailen, it’s not in the budget! [laughs] So it’s
like my middle name became budget. And it kept me on my budget, which is really really
good. It’s actually liberating when you can actually
go to the savings account and pay for that car repair yourself. We just paid our car payment off in June of
this year. And we’re looking to pay other debts to be hopefully in a year from now debt
free. I originally came to the Financial Empowerment
Center basically because upon graduation, I want to be financially responsible as possible.
I intend to get a good job and I want to know what habits to have financially. We have not, until the Financial Empowerment
Center came to be, we did not spend much time at all on the individual unit. The family
unit. The individual, and say, how can we build financial health before a crisis? How
can we create stability? That’s what the Financial Empowerment Center is all about. This particular program was actually launched
and designed under Mayor Bloomberg in New York. And it’s proven to be incredibly effective.
So we’re pleased to be one of the sites that’s able to launch this particular model. The purpose of the grant is to bring together
a government partner like the County Treasurer with a nonprofit organization like JVS to
provide for financial empowerment of the families of Oakland County. My responsibility is to collect delinquent
property taxes. What we’ve found is with the Financial Empowerment Center, if I can
get them in, have them do the interview, they’re able to help those people get applications
completed and actually then keep their property. Help them budget so that they’re not spending
money that they really don’t have, or help them find dollars that really are available
that they could have access to but they don’t understand that they can get it. We had a client who was involved in a payday
lending situation cycle, and then her financial counselor at the Financial Empowerment Center
sent her to a credit union who approved her for a loan to pay that off. But she said,
“I never had any idea I could have been approved for that.” Within six months, Morice was able to achieve
all six possible outcomes. He has established savings, which he contributes to every month,
paid down debts, negotiated with creditors, and increased his credit score by 110 points. I’m grateful for the program because it
was definitely definitely beneficial and I’m just grateful to be a part of it. And to be
able to share and help others. If someone was considering going to the Financial
Empowerment Center but unsure, I would say, “Go!” [laughs]

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